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A hiccup in my regularly scheduled updates: I’ve been indisposed, or in layman’s terms, feeling a bit shit.

Previously I boasted of feeling pretty damn good despite a rather bleak doctor’s note (and by note, I mean their “you’re not in great shape” prognosis, though I put it in slightly more colourful terms). Well, karma has caught up with me. I’m battling a nauseating cocktail of symptoms that the promised medications seem to exaggerate rather than diminish. Picture an incessant gut pain, heartburn so fierce it could roast marshmallows, and a dramatic gasp for breath every time I challenge a flight of stairs. And those pesky naps in the afternoon? They’re more frequent than a cat video on the internet. In my personal wellness dictionary, this ranks as RAF (rough as feck), which is leagues worse than the pangs of HAF (hungry as feck) or the thirst of TAF (thirsty as feck).

My mojo has been so AWOL that my lawn turned into a mini-jungle. My sprightly 85-year-old father-in-law, thinking he was auditioning for “Garden Rescue,” took the reins and tackled the greens. It took him three valiant days and almost sent him on an unplanned vacation to the heavens.

Then, the NHS chimed in with a little “thinking of you” card – or rather, a letter detailing the results of my PET scan. Newsflash: I’ve got unsolicited guests in the form of tumours in my liver and bones. Thankfully, they haven’t thrown a party in my brain or lungs yet. Oh, and here’s a surprise: my prostate’s on the larger side, which isn’t a shocker at all considering my other ‘fun’ symptoms. But the cherry on the sundae? The scan marked my appendix as ‘normal’. Funny, considering it took a medical exit back in ’77. I vividly remember that surgery, not for the agony but the sheer mortification of my 14-year-old self having a young female nurse shave off my pubescent pride. Now, if they overlooked that minor detail of a missing organ, what else slipped through? A huge cranial growth, perhaps? In case, like me, you’re wondering. No, the appendix can’t magically grow back.

However, there was a glimmer of hope. My follow-up with the oncologist led to a thumbs-up for a treatment cocktail featuring the dynamic duo, lpilimumav and Nivolumab. The gist? It’s like giving your immune system a shot of espresso so it wakes up and battles those pesky cancer cells, especially those sneaky liver ones playing hide and seek. But every rose has its thorn. Boosting the immune system is akin to feeding a Gremlin after midnight. Sure, it targets the bad, but can also ramp up conditions like diva-level eczema. And the encore? A buffet of side effects from tsunami-like diarrhoea, severe fatigue, diabetes and breathing difficulty to potential heart dramas, and a couple that, if taken too lightly, can land you a starring role in the afterlife. Amazing. I can’t wait to start!

I was booked in for a so-called ‘pre-assessment’ appointment in a few days. Apparently, my upcoming activities would include offering up more of my precious blood, having my heart graphed onto an ECG, and then sitting through a ‘riveting’ PowerPoint detailing the newest cocktail of substances they’d be pumping into my veins. 

The doc, ever the optimist, also handed me another prescription for antiemetics, insisting these ones would be leagues better than their predecessors. I could only hope.

We ambled back to the pharmacy – Lo and behold, as I joined one of the many queues, I caught sight of Ewan Bot taking charge at a serving hatch. Of all the pharma-jockeys, it had to be him. I slipped into an adjacent queue in a feeble attempt at evasive action. But alas, Ewan’s Terminator-esque tracking system had already locked onto me. I steeled myself for the impending monotony, encountering his all-too-familiar robotic gaze. Predictably, we danced the same tedious dance. Name, purpose, tablets – the classics. But then, a plot twist: a shadow of a smile? Was it a glitch, or had Ewan 2.0 been deployed since my last escapade? He was positively helpful and suggested I take a seat in the waiting area so that he would come and get me as soon as possible.

Murmuring my thanks – more out of habit than anything – I settled down, predicting a sizable waiting time. However, Ewan proved to be quicker than a microwave’s minute, appearing beside me sooner than anticipated. I was caught off-guard, so I couldn’t verify if his walk was akin to C3-PO’s – minus the glitzy gold get-up, of course.

He handed over a ticket stamped “Approximate wait time – 20 minutes” in an unsurprisingly non-committal font. As expected, our number flashed up in a time eerily close to 20 minutes.

As we joined the pharmacy queue (which now resembled one for a Black Friday sale), my attention was hijacked by an intriguing trio in front of me. At the centre was a wiry woman, looking as if she’d experienced five decades at warp speed. With hair stretched back tighter than my patience at that point and a voice raspy enough to sand wood. She was the poster child for ‘chain-smoking chic’ in her ensemble of Adidas greyscale.

The figures flanking her were dressed as if they were headed to a funeral but sporting incongruous hefty black boots. The one on the right had handcuffs linking him to our chain-smoking fashionista. The penny finally dropped. 

When they reached Ewan. I missed most of their exchange, but Ewan’s question about her address had me pondering whether it started with “HMP.”

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